Undercurrents | New Times Broward-Palm Beach


You might have heard about Broward School Superintendent Frank Till bending over backward to distance himself from the Howard Stern show recently, but for whom exactly was Till bending over?

According to a 1998 editorial in the St. Petersburg Times, Till bowed down to a man who is prone to dishing out "bigoted, deceitful" ploys to advance his gay-bashing cause. Till pulled ads from the Stern show and changed school board policy for a man who, according to the Times, knows little about schools and "cares even less."

The man is David Caton, the president of a right-wing Christian political group called the American Family Association, which claims 22,000 members. But the Times calls him a "one-man crusade." Caton is pro-life, anti-gay, and virulently opposed to pornography. Caton has gone after Stern, the stripper-loving shock jock, by contacting sponsors and asking them to stop patronizing Stern. If the sponsor refuses, Caton politely threatens to tell his "constituents" about it. A form of political extortion.

When Till, whom Caton mistakenly referred to as "Mr. Pill," got Caton's form letter, the super quickly kowtowed. Till thanked Caton, promised to pull the ads, and announced a new policy: Never again would a school board ad run on any program rated TV-MA. If you watch anything deemed "mature," you don't deserve to know about your educational opportunities in Broward, apparently.

Till's lily-livered response was met with outrage by only one board member, Stephanie Kraft. Kraft wrote Till, telling him his action "smacks of censorship" and urging him to "stand up for our constitutional rights of free speech and freedom of expression!"

The fun police wiped out spring break at the beginning of the last decade by limiting the drunken mayhem, because you can't lure in right-living young families with that scene.

The beginning of this decade finds the do-gooders of Fort Lauderdale trying to wipe out late-night revelry at hundreds of bars and clubs in the city to appease the oldsters. But this time a newly formed BAR-PAC is going to fight back with busloads of protestors, young and old, to chant at city commissioners.

The city proposes to change an ordinance that regulates the closing time of bars and nightclubs with the goal of cutting down on the number of late-night complaints from stodgy citizens. If the police receive calls about noise, parking, trash, and general rowdiness, the city can force the establishment to close at midnight (instead of 2, 3, or 4 a.m.) for a period of three months. Commissioner Gloria Katz is supporting this swift punishment to naughty club owners.

But a number of these places don't get going until after Morty and Mabel try to go to sleep in their condos. Many dance clubs start to fill up at about 1 a.m., and tourists with dollars dig the action. (Can you see South Beach doing this?) So smelling a business-quashing move, the bar and club owners have formed BAR-PAC. Andrew Gomersall of the Hurricane Club and others got a lawyer to fight back. "This is a real overreaction to the problem," he says of the proposal, and he's recommending that the owners and the city form a committee to look into the nature of the complaints before proposing regulations that could kill some clubs. But in lieu of that, BAR-PAC plans to rent buses and get its supporters to city hall on April 18. Sounds like a party.

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